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Types of Depression and Mood Disorders

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Depression has been called by many names over the span of human existence. 

  • “D” words win with the most entries…which seems only fair—Despondency  Despair  Disconsolate  Dispirited  Doleful  Downbeat  Downcast  Downhearted  Dejected  Down in the Dumps  Desolate 
  • “B” words have a nice bluesy feeling—Blahs  Blues  Blue devils  Blue funk 
  • “M” words are found in classical literature—Melancholic (big with the ancient Greeks)  Moody  Miserable  Moping  Mournful  Mirthless (very Edwardian) 
  • How about the “L” words for classy—Lachrymose (now doesn’t that sound classier than tearful)  Low-spirited  Lugubrious 
  • Even the “S” words have a certain ring—Sad  Somber  Sorrowful
  • The “W” words sum it up—Wistful  Woeful  Woebegone. 

You may think that you are suffering from depression, but you still have some questions about whether the shoe is a perfect fit.  And we do know now important it is to us ladies to have a perfect fit! 

Figuring out if it’s Major (or Clinical) Depression or a Reactive Depression.

You may have heard depression being referred to as Major Depression or Clinical Depression.  Health care providers use these two terms interchangeably. 

You are more likely to be suffering from Major or Clinical Depression if:

  • You suffer from MOST of the symptoms listed in the Depression Checklist (see COLUMN I )
  • You have sleep disruption and appetite loss
  • Your have noticed these symptoms DAILY for several weeks or months
  • Your symptoms appear WITHOUT immediate cause
  • Your daily functioning is severely impaired

You are more likely to be suffering from a Reactive Depression if:

  • You have only a FEW of the symptoms listed in the Depression Checklist
  • Your sleep and appetite are only slightly irregular
  • Your have good days with normal mood mixed in with bad days with depressed mood
  • Your symptoms occur primarily when upsetting things are happening
  • Your daily functioning is only moderately impaired

AND there are yet others types of depression:

You are more likely to be suffering from Dysthymia or general unhappiness if:

  • You have only depressed mood and feelings of worthlessness
  • Your sleep and appetite are normal
  • You’ve felt this way on and off throughout most of your life
  • Your symptoms do not interfere with daily functioning (you’re just miserable while you do it!)

You are more likely to be suffering from Abandonment Depression if:

  • Your depressed mood is triggered by being rejected, ignored, or abandoned by a loved one
  • Your feel as though you’ve suddenly been dropped into a black hole with no hope of a future
  • You experience rage mixed in with your depression
  • You have strong urges to harm yourself or others
  • Your symptoms completely disappear when you again feel secure in your relationships

Note:  Abandonment depression is linked to a condition called Borderline Personality Disorder (a topic for a future column).

Deciding if you have a mood disorder.

When your spells of feeling very down alternate with periods of feeling extremely up, it is possible that you are suffering from a mood disorder. 

The most common mood disorder is Bipolar Spectrum Disorder, one variety of which used to be called Manic-Depressive illness. 

You might have a Bipolar Spectrum Disorder if you have experiences such as these:

  • You feel on top of the world, much more self-confidant than usual
  • You are so hyper that you get in trouble
  • You are so irritable that you start fights
  • You get much less sleep than usual but don’t really miss it
  • You can’t control how loud or fast or how much you talk
  • Your thoughts are racing and jumbled and jump from topic to topic
  • You have much more energy than usual and behave like you can’t be stopped
  • You are much more social than usual—calling friends at three in the morning
  • You are much more interested in sex than usual—and forgetting to practice safe sex
  • You have ideas or make plans which other people think are foolish, risky, or excessive
  • You go on spending sprees that damage your financial situation

You may experience the up-mood or mania for several days at a time, even for weeks or months at a time.  When the up-mood is over, you plummet into a down-mood or depression that feels like a bottomless pit.

If you’ve had full-blown manic episodes, even just a few, where you’ve been hospitalized, ended up in jail, had delusions or hallucinations, didn’t sleep at all for days on end, or needed to be dragged in by family for psychiatric care—then you are suffering from a Type-I Bipolar Disorder. 

You could be at high risk if you suffer from Type-I Bipolar Disorder because:

  • You may refuse treatment or blame others for your problems
  • You may not use good judgment in daily decisions
  • You may engage in high risk behaviors such as promiscuity
  • You may hear voices or have delusions

Of course, at the point when you are at highest risk, you are unlikely to be reading this Column.  But if you think you might have Type-I Bipolar Disorder, getting professional help NOW could keep you from becoming at risk in the future.  You will need to be willing to take medication to get help for this disorder.

When mania occurs to a lesser degree, it is called hypomania.  For example, you feel hyper but you don’t get into trouble, you sleep at least a few hours a night, and you don’t go out and buy a yacht.  This is Type-II Bipolar Disorder.  You still may have to take medication to see consistent improvement.

You may very well have had experiences that indicate that you suffer from a mood disorder and yet have never received proper treatment.  This is not unusual.  It typically takes seven to ten years of cycling mood before most people with mood disorders obtain a correct diagnosis.  You and your family have simply weathered the storms.  However, considering treatment at this stage of life could improve the quality of your life.

The treatment of choice for mood disorders most often involves medication.  You need to see a psychiatrist for this medication, not your general practitioner.

*  *  *

If you are feeling SUICIDAL and NEED IMMEDIATE HELP. GO DIRECTLY to a family member, a friend, your physician, your pastor, or to the nearest hospital emergency room and TELL THEM YOU NEED HELP. Don’t have the energy to do even that? Call 911 or one of these numbers:

1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255
For a Suicide Hotline in your state:


NEXT IN THE SERIES:  Change your depressed mood through action.